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COBIT problem management metrics improve services levels and reduce IT cost


For the last two months, I’ve been examining different elements of the COBIT 5 standard and explaining why COBIT 5 should be part of your IT strategy. In a nutshell, COBIT 5 provides a roadmap for IT organizations to take their performance to the next level. I especially like that COBIT 5 provides IT leaders with the metrics to drive performance improvement. Today, we will turn our attention on managing problems. COBIT 5 defines problem management as:


1)      Identifying and classifying problems

2)      Determining root causes

3)      Providing timely resolution to prevent recurring incidents

4)      Providing recommendations for improvement


In terms of purposes, problem management aims to “increase availability, improve service levels, reduce costs, and improve customer convenience and satisfaction by reducing the number of operational problems.” As such, problem management is the hub of what ITIL Version 3.0 calls continual improvement by taking away repetitive issues. In venture capitalists speak, problem management is a pain pill rather than a nice to have.


Process goals for change

COBIT 5 has only one process goal for problem management, but it specifies five metrics around it. This goal is all about continual improvement. The goal is that IT-related problems are resolved so that they do not reoccur. With this as a backdrop, let’s review the specific metrics.


1.          Decrease in number of reoccurring incidents caused by unresolved problems. If there is something that nets out the management of problems, this metric is it. Do this and your IT organization will prosper!

2.         Percent of major incidents for which problems were logged. What is a good number for something like this? I believe it should be high because COBIT discusses major incidents in the same vein that it discusses disasters and disruptions. This means that problem management should fix people, process, or technology. Therefore, if something breaks you need to know the cause and how to make it go away not just for today but for the future.

3.         Percent of workarounds defined for open problems. Did you ever watch the TV show ER? This is really what incident management is about. Get someone quickly fixed so they can be on their way. It may not be a permanent solution but it allows them to function. You want this number high because it takes the pressure off for an immediate permanent solution because the business can operate through the issue Remember the importance of availability and meeting Service Level Agreements. The goal here is to minimize business impact.

4.         Percent of problems logged as part of the proactive problem management activity. Problems are discovered one of three ways. First is through a major incident being declared. The second is by enough people complaining. The third is by someone in IT discovering a repeating area of concern and discerning there is a problem.  The third method is proactive problem management. So it is clear, business impact is minimized if IT discovers a problem before the business is impacted.

5.         Number of problems for which a satisfactory resolution that addressed root causes were found. You would like this number to be high. It means that you have truly made problems go away!


Where to start?

Once again, my suggestion is you start where the most immediate value can be driven. But if it were up to me, I would start with the percent of major incidents for which problems are logged, because it is going to suggest low-hanging fruit for improvement.  What do you think? Please do share.


Related links:

Solution page:  IT Performance Management

Twitter: @MylesSuer

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About the Author


Mr. Suer is a senior manager for IT Performance Management. Prior to this role, Mr. Suer headed IT Performance Management Analytics Product Management including IT Financial Management and Executive Scorecard.

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